HOPE Walk combats drug abuse, addiction

ALABASTER – About 120 people came to Veterans Park in Alabaster to raise awareness about drug abuse and addiction at the first Heroin Overdose Prescription Elimination Walk on Saturday, Aug. 12. The event was co-sponsored by the Shelby County Drug Free Coalition and Bradford Health Services in Alabaster.

“Any time that you can speak on substance abuse or alcohol abuse to a number of people, whether it be three or 500, you’re getting the message out one way or another,” Rachel Lawley with Bradford Health Services said.

During the HOPE Walk, visitors went on a silent walk throughout Veterans Park, which was followed by a candlelight vigil. Several guest speakers shared stories of how drug addiction has affected Shelby County over the years.

“I think one of the driving motivations behind the HOPE Walk is that there are a lot of families that may not be personally involved with drug addiction and abuse, but they have been touched by addiction and abuse,” Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force Cmdr. Clay Hammac said. “This is an opportunity for those who are struggling and facing those challenges from loved ones or those who have touched their families to be encouraged by the community to find this network of folks to lean on, and for us to let them know that this is a fight that we’re all in together.”

According to Shelby County Coroner Lina Evans, there were 170 reported drug overdoses in the county from 2011-2016.

“Any amount of overdoses is too high. The number should be zero,” Evans said.

In addition to raising awareness, Shelby County Drug Free Coalition Coordinator Jan Corbett and Lawley said the event also served as a reminder of those who have lost their lives to drug overdoses and a means of support to families who are currently struggling.

“The candlelight vigil is to remember those that didn’t make it to this walk today,” Lawley said. “For their families, we’re taking some time to say, ‘We’re here for you and we understand the struggle that you’re going through. Let us be helpful to you.’”

“We want to remind those who have lost loved ones that we have not forgotten their deaths,” Corbett said. “That’s the one thing their families are afraid of: that people are going to forget them.”

Resources for those who were seeking help for themselves or a loved one were also onsite.

“Recovery, first and foremost, is possible and it should be celebrated,” Hammac said. “It’s not a 12-week program or a three-month program. Recovery is for a lifetime. We’re trying to encourage and empower these family members as they continue to walk alongside their loved ones who are struggling with addiction.”

Despite the rainy weather, Corbett sad she was proud to see such a large turnout at the HOPE Walk.

“It says a lot about this community that we’re all here and going to work together. We believe that there is hope and people can recover. There are organizations and people out there to help,” Corbett said.

Hammac referred to the HOPE Walk as a “step in the right direction” for the community.

“We’re not only recognizing the problem, but coming up with a solution and working toward that solution,” Hammac said. “That solution is not more law enforcement or more investment in one community program over another. That solution is everyone recognizing that there is a problem and knowing what we can do to address that problem. The first step to prevention is education.”